Tuesday, September 29, 2009

American Vice: Who Sins How and Where

Speaking of greed, it appears that this capital sin has a distinct geographic provenance in the U.S., as do all the other capital sins. For a bit of fun (but also some serious reflection), have a look at this recent geographic breakdown of the capital sins in American context, prepared by the Kansas State University Geography Department.

Interesting to note that the study (which uses various data sets to map “vices” state-by-state in the U.S.) confirms others which find that the area most prone to preach about the need for sexual restraint, the bible belt of the Southeast, also happens to be the one most prone to lust, as indicated by reported cases of STDs.

This set of maps reminds me of one I had bookmarked some time back, and have lost sight of. I think the map appeared on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish site. If any reader remembers it and can draw my attention to an article that features this map, I'd be grateful.

The map was a global map of areas of the world in which wife-beating is culturally acceptable and defended even by women beaten by their husbands. What struck me as I looked at this map is how closely it parallels global maps indicating countries in which homosexuality is outlawed or punished.

Christians of the right in developed nations love to point to anti-gay prejudice in developing nations as an indicator of how Christians of the developing world hold the true faith as we in the West abandon orthodoxy by affirming gay people. The overlap between misogyny and homophobia in some parts of the world raises an interesting question: when the religious right defends the “right” of people in developing nations to bash gays, is it also defending the “right” of husbands in many of those same nations to beat their wives?

Is the religious right's defense of homophobia in some cultures also a defense of misogyny in those cultures? Western Christians of the right charge their brothers and sisters who oppose gay-bashing in developing nations as well as in the West with imposing Western cultural norms on those cultures. They charge Western Christians who deplore homophobia in all cultures with relating to Christians in developing nations in an imperialistic way.

If our culture and its faith communities have decided that beating women is ethically unacceptable anywhere it occurs, and that women have fundamental human rights that must be respected in any cultural setting, then why can we not take the same steps when it comes to discrimination against LGBT people? Or do those who want to use the people of the developing world as tools in Western battles to bash gay folks really support misogyny at the same time that they oppose gays?